In their landmark book The One to One Future, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers told marketers to "operate in realities, not abstractions of realities".
But in 1993, when their book was published, neither could have foreseen how quickly their idea of personalised advertising would be realised. "That idea was ahead of its time," says Matthew Heath, chairman and chief strategy officer of Lida, M&C Saatchi's direct marketing arm. "Now, the internet is providing a way for brands to interact with individuals." He tells City A.M. why it's an exciting time for direct marketing, and why retargeting is so annoying.
Why is direct marketing so important now?
My dad was an ad-man from the Mad Men era, so I grew up when the industry was all glamour and excitement. Advertising used to cast a broad net, and relied on being massively engaging on a broadcast level; it was a hangover from the Victorian era of mass production. But those days have passed. The personal relevance dial needs to be turned up so that individuals see things which are entertaining, engaging and relevant to them at that moment in time.
What does it entail, exactly?
At Lida, we're quite proud of the term "direct marketing", but it has a bit of a bad rap for being associated with grubby direct mail and Capital One carpet bombing people with credit card offers. But with the advent of data management platforms around digital advertising, we're beginning to see the benefits of starting to target more accurately, and talk to a consumer in a direct fashion.
I get annoyed by re-targeting. You think to yourself - no, I already bought that lamp yesterday! But using more complex data, a brand can treat you more personally. This doesn't necessarily mean selling you something, but perhaps giving you some useful information at a certain point in your day, or drawing your attention to a product feature you're not using. There are lots of different interventions, and they're the only natural way of stopping this tendency to say: "Ads, please go away."
Does this signal the end of "paid" adverts?
There are different models now for different brands. Ten years ago, it was about getting on TV and getting exposure via the likes of Sainsbury's and Tesco. Now everything is much more highly connected and you don't necessarily have to throw a load of money at the problem and rely on the "advertising first" model which privileges "paid" media.
For our clients like Boots, Ikea and Land Rover, you still need something exciting and creative to leverage when you're talking to people in a personal way. Advertising is still a very important touch point for reaching consumers. But other brands like Kiehls and Krispy Kreme donuts don't do any paid advertising. They have a direct connection with their customers, and are very clever in that they use free resources like social media to spread the word. They have simply been so successful through word of mouth, they have never needed to advertise.
Which campaigns do you find most eyecatching?
I like work which solves big business problems, not just communication issues. When we worked with Land Rover on the launch of their Discovery Sport, we faced the classic dilemma of needing to talk about the car before it was in stock at the dealership. So we used some technology called Durovis Dive which attaches to your iPhone and after pointing it at a box on the floor, you can look through your mobile's screen and the car is suddenly there in all its three-dimensional glory. You can open the doors, step inside it. It was cheap and really quite amazing.
I also like the interactive subscription form for Canal+ this year. A subscription form is one of the most boring jobs an agency could get, but BETC Paris created a brilliant and funny video where two talk show hosts guide you through the process, making jokes about how mundane it is. It didn't change the underlying need to ask people lots of dull questions, but they made it into an engaging experience, and it won a Gold Lion at Cannes.